Justin Simms


According to his niece, Maude Braxton, Justin Simms (1887-1947) was born in Waynesboro, Virginia, where the Dooleys met him. He was married to Margaret ("Maggie") Bailey of Richmond.

Mr. Simms first appears in the Richmond city directory in 1918 as a laborer residing at 809 N. 4th Street. The 1920 census describes Justin Simms as a 33-year-old Black male who could read and write. He and his parents were Virginia-born. At the time, he was working as a laborer in a coal mine; his wife, Maggie, is listed as a 29-year-old teacher. There are no children listed. The couple was boarding in the home of William and Maude Braxton (Maggie Simms' sister and brother-in-law).

Mr. Simms may have come to Maymont in the spring of 1922 as a personal assistant for James Dooley, who had suffered a stroke two years earlier. In March, the Dooleys advertised in the News Leader for "an efficient Man Body Servant." After James Dooley's death in November 1922, Mr. Simms likely shifted his duties from valet to that of second butler and waiter. Oral history indicates that he assisted head butler, William Dilworth. His many years' previous experience as a general laborer suggests that he might also have helped with heavier household chores such as stoking the furnace.

Correspondence from Florence Elder indicate that Mr. Simms was among the staff members who relocated in the summer with the Dooleys to Swannanoa, in Waynesboro. By 1923, Justin Simms was earning $60 a month. Sallie Dooley bequeathed him $500 in her will.

Justin Simms and his wife maintained a residence on N. 4th Street between 1918-1928, which coincides with his Maymont employment. It is possible that he stayed overnight at Maymont as needed. His niece recalled that, after the Dooleys died, Mr. Simms returned to reside in Waynesboro. Subsequent city directories, however, indicate that in 1925 and 1928 he was employed in Richmond as a waiter. Moreover, oral history from Mrs. Dooley's niece places him as a waiter at the Jefferson Hotel during these years. The 1932 city directory indicates that he changed his residence to N. Harrison Street.

Through the 1940s, Mr. Simms worked as an orderly at the Pine Camp Tuberculosis Hospital. His final city directory listing appears in 1947, describing him as a laborer. At the time, he would have been sixty years old.